October 21, 2004

Why Conservatives Need to Vote for Bush

Chris from New Patriot points us to a Doug Bandow piece in Salon, "Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush".

We'll get to Bandow in a moment.

Dystra says:

I have been arguing for the last couple of years that Bush is no conservative.
So have many of us. It's the reason I supported Steve Forbes to the bitter end in 2000. It's the reason I was, at best, a lukewarm Bush supporter (at least he wasn't Algore) until September 11.

Dykstra continues:

Please also note, believing in some conservative values does not neccessarily mean one cannot also believe in progressive values. They are not mutually exclusive at all.
No, indeed; genuine conservatism is more progressive than the movements that have co-opted the term "progressive" in recent years.

Oh, yeah - Bandow's piece: read it, but don't expect much in the way of enlightenment; Andrew Sullivan says the same things, and says 'e better. And he's still wrong.

Bandow runs through a litany of the same things most of us genuine conservatives have been harping on - a lot of things that might matter, except for that war thing: spending, mainly.

But then, there's that pesky war on terror thing:

Yet Bush's foreign policy record is as bad as his domestic scorecard. The administration correctly targeted the Taliban in Afghanistan, but quickly neglected that nation, which is in danger of falling into chaos. The Taliban is resurgent, violence has flared, drug production has burgeoned and elections have been postponed.
The Taliban and violence are always endemic in Afghanistan, drugs are a side issue (how very eighties of Mr. Bandow - and since when does the Cato Institute care about the War on Drugs?), and the Afghan elections were a hugely successful watershed.
Iraq, already in chaos, is no conservative triumph. The endeavor is social engineering on a grand scale, a war of choice launched on erroneous grounds that has turned into a disastrously expensive neocolonial burden.

Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, contrary to administration claims, and no operational relationship with al-Qaida, contrary to administration insinuations. U.S. officials bungled the occupation, misjudging everything from the financial cost to the troop requirements.

So many diversions; most of Iraq is not in chaos, the "no operational relationship" canard dodges the real point of the Hussein/Terror (not just Al Quaeda) relationship, and WMDs were not the only justification for war, merely the only one that the left thinks we didn't succeed at.
Particularly shocking is the administration's ineptitude with regard to Iraq. Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek, "On almost every issue involving postwar Iraq -- troop strength, international support, the credibility of exiles, de-Baathification, handling Ayatollah Ali Sistani -- Washington's assumptions and policies have been wrong.
Bandow and the unavoidable Zakaria assume that anyone would have done better; that tripling the number o troops would change the situation in Iraq (doubtful), that "international support" would matter one iota in Iraq today (the terrorists would pack up and leave if we had the French imprimatur?), that keeping the old regime in positions of power would have done more than "make the trains run on time", that the exiles will make any different outside of what their own merits will provide once the elections take place, and that anyone would have predicted Sistani's actions.

Bush has a record in Iraq - imperfect, but at least an empirical record. Bush's detractors are still operating from the purely hypothetical - and mostly doing it badly.

By now most have been reversed, often too late to have much effect. This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq.
Really? Would Mr. Bandow like to tell that to the Kurds? To the Shi'a of the southern part of the country?

What else? Oh, yeah - he's not a wonk:

The final conservative redoubt is Bush's admirable personal life. Alas, other characteristics of his seem less well suited to the presidency. By his own admission he doesn't do nuance and doesn't read.
Bandow is speaking cant. Bush does nuance just fine; he just doesn't make the nuance the keystone of his approach, as the wonky likes of Clinton, Gore and Kerry do. Reading? Reading lots and lots for fun is one of those things the hypereducated value - as do I - but it's hardly a dealbreaker. And finally:
He doesn't appear to reflect on his actions and seems unable to concede even the slightest mistake.
Oh, that'd be brilliant, wouldn't it? Perhaps if his opponents were rational grownups, it'd make sense. But the opposition - petulant media wonks, inflamed lunatics at MoveOn, and a Democrat party motivated more by hatred than by their own party's core values (whatever they are) - aren't. Showing hesitation in the face of such an onslaught is like showing indecision when facing an angry dog - it's an opening you'd be nuts to provide.

Beyond that, what does Bandow have? A few quotes from Jonah Goldberg (with context carefully trimmed) and...Tucker Carlson?

Tucker Carlson? Why not cite Arne Carlson, while you're at it?

Back to Dykstra:

A Reaganite argues that Bush is a dangerous, profligate, moralizing radical -- and that his reelection would be catastrophic both for the right and for America.
I wasn't aware you were such an admirer of the Reagan legacy, Chris!

Bush's domestic policies have been troubling to conservatives, again, since the beginning. Expect a serious conservative push to restrain domestic spending after the election.

But, after you trim out the distortions and just-plain-untruths of the lefty cant on Iraq, as well as the swathes of just-plain-unreality as re the general War on Terror, Bush is the only candidate whose views work. At all.

So when Dykstra says:

I predict there are enough conservatives who will reject the boy-president. If they can't directly vote for Kerry, they will deny Bush their vote on principle by voting for one of the least objectionable third-party candidates.
Conservatives are intensely pragmatic, as a rule. Surely there are some conservatives who will deny Bush the vote on principle. Many, many more will realize that whatever Bush's ideological faults, he's better than the alternative.

Bandow cites the canard that Kerry, if presiding over a Republican congress, would spend less money. That's an understandable notion, coming from someone at Cato (Bandow is a senior fellow at the libertarian think tank). In peacetime, it's a fine plan; the Republican '94 Congress did wonders in reigning in Bill Clinton's statist vision; the six ensuing years of gridlock did much to ensure prosperity...

...but not peace. A gridlocked government is a good thing when there are no more pressing concerns. But we have those concerns today. The sooner we deal with them, the sooner we can return to a time and place where noodling about with abstractions like induced gridlock are tenable again.

Oh, yeah - as re Dykstra's closing point, about conservatives staying home? I bet the total number of conservatives who sit out voting for Bush would fit in Andrew Sullivan's vacation home, and leave room in the kitchen.

Posted by Mitch at October 21, 2004 04:57 AM | TrackBack

I get Cato's daily email news summary. I'm shocked, Mitch -- SHOCKED -- that Bandow thinks Bush has spent too much and Iraq is a quagmire since those are exactly the same positions Cato writes about in every other email missive.

Cato's not as shrill as, but they're both certainly flogging the same horses.

P.S. Best comment at The Corner today? An email to Jonah Goldberg which concludes, "I hate the Yankees like Dems hate Bush." Amen.

Posted by: Mark at October 21, 2004 11:54 AM

P.P.S. What self-respecting conservative reads Salon?!?!

Posted by: Mark at October 21, 2004 11:55 AM

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Posted by: Bobby Boston at October 21, 2004 03:44 PM

"Why Conservatives Must NOT Vote for Bush."

Gee, I'm shaking in my boots already.

Doesn't this genius know that conservatives generally don't like to be TOLD to do anything? I mean, isn't that why we're conservatives?


Posted by: Pete (Alois) at October 22, 2004 01:09 PM

Fiscal conservatives should vote Kerry. It's that simple. Just ask the Economist magazine.

Posted by: Ben at October 22, 2004 11:20 PM